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Church challenged over bid to remove medieval torture items

The Parish of Dunkeld wants to put 'jougs' from St Anne's Church into a museum.

St Anne's Church, Dowally Bill Henderson

Concerns have been raised over plans to remove medieval torture items from an old church in Perthshire.

The Parish of Dunkeld is looking to remove ‘jougs’ – metal collars and chains used historically for punishment – from the walls of St Anne’s Church in Dowally and have them stored in an archive building.

However, Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is worried the jougs “would be less meaningful as an artefact if separated from the church building”.

In a letter to Perth and Kinross Council, which will consider the parish’s application for listed building consent, HES voiced its opposition to storing them in a museum.

The public body said: “Whilst the arguments in favour of securing the jougs at Dowally against corrosion and theft are very clear, we are of the view that they would be less meaningful as an artefact if separated from the church building.

“When considering the best conservation outcome for a building or artefact, the appreciation of its cultural significance is also considered alongside the best way to protect it.

Chains: The artifact could be removed for preservation

“In our view, the jougs’ attachment to the church, their location on an external wall, and their height from the ground all inform of their history in a way which is more meaningful to the viewer than if they were displayed in a museum.”

In medieval times, the collar of the jougs – often attached to the outside of a building – were placed round an offender’s neck and secured by a padlock. The process was intended to publicly shame the individual.

The Parish of Dunkeld are currently in the process of selling the former church at Dowally, which has been unused for a number of years.

HES said it appreciated the decision to leave or remove the items was “not a straightforward one”.

It added: “We appreciate that the church is no longer in use and its future may currently be uncertain.

“We also recognise that this change in the church’s circumstances mean that a decision to leave or remove the jougs is not a straightforward one.”

The application is awaiting permission from council planners.

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